She is a stand up and fight woman

FIGHTING TALK: Susan Shabangu. 30/08/07. © Unknown.
FIGHTING TALK: Susan Shabangu. 30/08/07. © Unknown.

Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Susan Shabangu has made fighting for others her lifelong passion.

Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Susan Shabangu has made fighting for others her lifelong passion.

Shabangu, a leading advocate of gender equality, is the eldest of six children. She grew up in Soweto and has spent her life defending her siblings and other helpless people.

"Most of the time I found myself confronting big boys and girls. Although I grew up in a rough neighbourhood, it taught me to stand up for myself," Shabangu says.

She says she never allowed boys at her school or in her neighbourhood to treat her any differently because she was a girl. She says she even played soccer with them.

"Right from the beginning, I was aware of gender differences. I never allowed myself to be bullied by boys. I challenged them all the time," she says.

Her parents and and other family elders, she says, also contributed to her strong personality. This helped to shape her life. Her late mother and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Albertina Sisulu feature high on her list of role models.

Although Shabangu has her father's "stand up and fight" approach to life, it contrasts with her mother's teachings of good values, caring and advice to stay away from trouble. Both her parents were disciplinarians - a trait Shabangu says is sorely needed in parenting today.

Shabangu, a mother of two boys and a girl, believes boys should be raised to be gender sensitive, but insists that there should not be a role reversal where girls start mistreating boys. She says both sexes must maintain their assertiveness.

"Today's children need values which instil discipline and respect. We need to engage them to open up. We also need to share our own experiences with our children," she says.

Shabangu says her early years of protecting others and heeding the advice of wise women, have paid off.

She says her position in safety and security puts her in touch with police officers on a daily basis. She believes the officers are making strides on service delivery.

"We are seeing many policemen who are passionate about dealing with domestic violence. It is not an easy task, but we are getting there," Shabangu says.

She encourages victims of domestic violence to report all incidents to the police.

Shabangu says an increasing number of women are joining the police force. This has led directly to the launch of the SAPS Women's Network.

The network focuses on empowering women within the police force to pro-actively address women issues.

The network has since expanded into various outreach programmes and is currently hosting information sessions in the hope of encouraging victims of domestic violence to reveal their problems.

Shabangu says domestic violence is now being tackled as a transgender issue rather than just a women's problem.

While Shabangu has a lot on her plate, she says domestic violence and gender issues remain her top priorities.

"I am passionate about women's issues. I want to continue to be a champion for gender issues. I also want to nurture the young generation so that their morals are not compromised," she says.